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Super-fertility – a justification for recurrent miscarriages

A fertilized embryo

A fertilized embryo (licensed by Google creative commons)

Miscarriages are an emotionally and physically uncomfortable experience for a woman to go through. A recurrent miscarriage is defined as losing three or more pregnancies in a row and unfortunately there is a self-assigned negativity related to females with this tragic fate. Normally, a miscarriage is detected during a formal pregnancy scan in which a biochemical pregnancy is confirmed or rejected.

Having casually worked in a fertility practice, I have experienced the devastation associated with patients that are ecstatic about their positive pregnancy test, only to receive news that it was a miscarriage – or the horribly put alternative – ‘missed abortion’.

Many affected women feel guilty that they are simply rejecting their pregnancy, said Prof Nick Macklon, a fertility consultant in the UK.

But there is an alternative explanation to this devastating occurrence. This is super-fertility. A recent study conducted by a team of UK and Dutch scientists have discovered that one explanation for recurrent miscarriages is not due to the ‘rejection’ of a fertilized embryo. It could be due to these women being super-fertile.

Super-fertility is the notion that some women have wombs that allow poor quality embryos to implant when they should be rejected. The scientists that published these findings carried out experiments of high and low quality embryos against womb cells. The cells of women with normal fertility grew out towards the high quality embryo whereas the cells of women with recurrent miscarriages grew out towards both embryos. This displayed that the womb cells of women with super-fertility did not discriminate between high and low quality embryos – offering an explanation to recurrent miscarriages.

The current method in place to combat this is in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This provides these women with a greater chance of a successful pregnancy.

The following steps explain IVF with PGD.

  • Retrieval of ova (eggs) from a female’s ovaries
  • Fertilization of eggs with collected sperm
  • In-vitro (in glass) development of embryo
  • Removal of one of these cells for genetic testing
  • Transfer of high quality ‘normal’ embryo to the uterus

This study gives great hope for fertility specialists and women alike as it removes the negative associations of miscarriage. It also offers an explanation for women that have experienced an ‘unexplained’ miscarriage. Researchers are now focusing on whether super-fertility can be tested for, and if the cells of the womb can be altered to only favour high-quality embryos.

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